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5 patients with possible latent TB infection detected after NUH’s screening

The National University Hospital has found no patient infected with active pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) but detects five with indication of latent TB infection after it had contacted more than 160 patients for screening.

178 paediatric patients, including 131 under the age of two years were identified for screening after a nurse who have cared for them, was diagnosed with TB on 27 November.

The recalled patients from the hospital’s children ward include 34 children who have received a transplanted organ. These children are on immunosuppression drugs and therefore at higher risk than normal children.

NUH in its statement said that none of the 160 patients has active TB detected, but five have shown positive Mantoux reading, which is indicative of latent TB infection, adding that they have been offered treatment as a precautionary measure by the hospital.

The patients were said to have gone through a screening which involves a chest X-ray to check for TB, and blood tests if aged five or older, and/or skin tests to see if they have the bug latent in them.

"Individuals with latent TB infection do not have symptoms and are not infectious," said the NUH spokesperson. "They cannot spread TB to other people. Children are less likely to spread TB to others because the form of TB most commonly seen in children are usually less infectious than the forms seen in adults."

TB, is a bacterial infection that can spread through the lymph nodes and bloodstream to any organ in your body. It is most often found in the lungs.

TB is a treatable and curable disease. Active, drug-susceptible TB disease is treated with a standard 6-month course of 4 antimicrobial drugs that are provided with information, supervision and support to the patient by a health worker or trained volunteer. The vast majority of TB cases can be cured when medicines are provided and taken properly.

According to a NUH spokesperson, latent TB infection can be effectively treated to prevent progression to active TB, with current treatment options reducing the risk of developing active TB by more than 90 per cent.

It is said that 1,252 new TB cases have been diagnosed in Singapore since the start of the year. In 2014, there were 2171 notified cases of TB (new cases and relapse) with 9 deaths as a result of the disease.